The Country Dog Review

Fall/Winter 2011-2012

Anne Barngrover

Yell Hound Blues

Last summer, my body kept its blood long enough to know
that something had taken hold: a brown bubble furballing
with despair. I was scalded in gnat bites, unwanted as kudzu.
I was a shorebird windmilling above a crawfish boil. Wrong
trail. Wrong scraps. River food. You called me territorial
when the bar was too small. I drank lit oil, pissed amber on
the parrot lilies in your front yard. What had you planted inside
me? This ataxia slimed like a swamp ghost. I threw a cherry
bomb that turned into a cocktail. I wanted to set you on fire.
And it’s summer, again. Last night, I drove home in a bog’s
hot breath, lightning clotting purple sky. Something ran down
the sideburns of the road, up a fence and along. I thought it
was a fox. I thought it was a whelped dog. I thought that you
would stay, or at least you wouldn’t go. I watched as it leapt off
into the dark woods. The ghost lifted in howls, and I drove on.
Nothing will let me keep hold.



Anne Barngrover is a 2011 graduate of the MFA program at Florida State University. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Florida Review, Big Lucks and iO: A Journal of New American Poetry, among others. She currently writes and teaches in Tallahassee.



***


Michelle Chan Brown

Dollhouse

Someone told me the password—EAT ME—
so I’m moving into the rooms one by one,
licking the dust off the tiny chandelier, tapping
discreetly on the ass of the skull-faced butler. See,
I’ve idealized this for so long, those curtains
of linen and lace, the exquisite eye-drop
wine cellar. I’d gladly lose a lash for that
diminutive footstool in port leather. Maybe
it’s bigness that I’m after, a sense of perspective,
but I’m also learning how to talk with ceramic
madwomen in the attic. I hear they’re looking
for a roommate. The façade is impeccable,
and the static on the dwarf television might be
the informal version of the prophecy. I’m rising
before dawn, chilly in my gross four-poster, so as
to sneak up on it, loom clumsy and enormous,
lunar. It’s the first time my shadow has experienced
greatness since expulsion from my mother,
whom I suspect may be sifting through the garbage,
clipping the yellow roses. Maybe it’s smallness
I want: my distinguishing features reduced
to the pricks of a pin. I’ll wear my Jane Doll
nametag above the nipple, reduce my worldly
goods to a bundle at the end of a toothpick,
twist my petite tongue if they’ll just let me in.



Michelle Chan Brown’s Double Agent was the winner of the 2011 Kore First Book Award, judged by Bhanu Kapil. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Harpur Palate, Sycamore Review, Witness, The Missouri Review, Tampa Review, The Concher, textsound, and others. Her chapbook, "The Clever Decoys," is available from LATR Editions. She earned her MFA at the University of Michigan, where she received the Michael R. Gutterman prize. She lives in Pomfret, Connecticut, where she is the Writer-in-Residence at Pomfret School and poetry editor for drunken boat.


***


Holly Virginia Clark

Close Every Window

We devastate as much as we can
with our own blood, the glass elevator
suicides in the wind-pounded atriums
rising floor after floor, the bar-time shadows
steering home the bar-time bodies, bed stains,
bed stains. I think about sea glass,
that it’s only as polished as its life is violent.
Or I think I can close every window,
dismantle every ladder. I wish I were a cop,
sirens a-go, all the deferent SUVs
pulled to the side, while I’m clenching a roll
of yellow tape, surging along the skids of rain
toward the brink of all recklessness, toward
whatever scene still lives in the eyes of the dead.



Holly Virginia Clark was a 2011 Pushcart nominee and finalist for the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship.  Her work appears or is forthcoming in Hunger Mountain, The North American Review, Redactions, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and elsewhere.


***



Lisa Fay Coutley

Love & Squall


Ask me to choose between rough
water & a stone path leading nowhere
I can see, & I’ll focus on the yellow
raincoat hung from a row of hooks.
The wall, the whitecaps, the dark hill
shown through two separate windows
can never meet. So I need to pretend   
that beyond what can be seen, a single
clothesline is thrashing its frayed end
against a weathered pole. Neglect. Time.  
I need to believe in what was left behind.
To see the yellow is to miss the door
left open—the urgency of what was    
washed to sea, of what crested a hill.   
As if the world we believed was still  
as canvas, nothing but edges. As if what
was here we’ll always know as abandon, hips
once battened to a gritty floor. The tremor
of shadows our candles cast during a storm.
The empty latch hole in the doorframe  
says longing. The binoculars hung over  
the yellow slicker beg wait—I’m still  
waiting. Don’t ask me to choose one
of two starfish propped against a pane
in the only sunlight streaking through
this small piece of room, where one
of two lovers stands watch. Mine are two
hands, reaching during a squall, brittle
enough to grasp at anything unseen
through this window, over this dark hill,
obstructed by this wall. I’ll hold anything  
that promises to be so violent, so brief.



Based on Andrew Wyeth's painting, Squall



Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and Back-Talk, which won the ROOMS Chapbook Contest (Articles Press, 2010). She is currently a doctoral fellow and poetry editor for Quarterly West at the University of Utah. Her work has appeared most recently or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2010, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Third Coast, Barn Owl Review, RHINO, and on Verse Daily.


***


Heather Foster

Donkeys

We make the grave, shovel the heavy dirt
by the troughs. Snow falls on sisters—us and them.
When you bury something, bury it face first.

Fifty dollars, through a nickel ad, on a whim—
milk-eyed monstrosities we used to love.
It’s hard to watch the troughs fill up with drifts.

We grab the short black spine hair with our gloves.
White bellies and white mouths they made their noise with.
We drank their milk like monsters, used to love it.

We roll them toward the grave and push them in,
there is nothing to say among sisters.
The donkeys lay there bloated, stiff, smoke-skinned.

I think it’s noise, not donkeys that I miss.
It takes an hour to put them underground.
The nothing we’ve said all day comes to this—

It takes an hour and dirt’s the only sound.
It takes an hour to put them underground.
We fill the grave, shovel the heaviest dirt.
We bury our dead. We bury them face first.


A former pre-med lab rat, Heather Foster shed the goggles and sold her soul to poetry. She lives on a 144-acre farm in Sardis, Tennessee, with her husband, 2 sons, and Ozzy the heavy metal rooster. She's an M.F.A. candidate in poetry at Murray State University, and her most recent work is forthcoming in PANK Magazine.


***


Gretchen Hodgin

Vinegar

The Carolina children ride
their ribboned bikes with sock-less feet
through lucid graphs of calculus
that flux above the humid street.
The dandelion heads fly by.
On Saturday, the swimming meet
runs long, and Sunday tights are bunched
at buckles kicking in the seat.
The sleeveless mothers pickle love
and douse the collard greens they heat
in jaundiced Goodwill microwaves,
or sanitize a dog-dipped cleat
with stuffed-up-sugar sour wine,
the only acid you can eat.


Gretchen Hodgin holds a BA in Russian from the University of South Carolina, which she has never used.  She currently studies creative writing at Johns Hopkins University as a graduate student.  Her work has appeared in, or is forthcoming in, The Lyric, Sewanee Theological Review, and Gargoyle, among a few others.


***


Amorak Huey


Still Life

A boy walks through kudzu-green park
holding hands with a girl who is not there.
Every girl he has kissed has been

some kind of Kristi – all eyes and whys
and hard seas. Eventually they disappear

but this is not his fault. Prom night,
Dirty Dancing in the basement,
spring birthdays. Beside him the Cahaba:
muddy, unceasing, certain. Open lips,

impossible hunger, mirror steamed over.

Triangle the strongest shape,
metal the only music worth listening to,
such efficient structures, little effort wasted –
in front of him, a concrete picnic table

set for two. He sits. Waits.


**
 

After an Ice Storm

Trees silver in sunlight,
electric like something broken,
bright as a thing about to vanish.
The air is impossible with daggers.


Amorak Huey recently left the newspaper business after 15 years as a reporter and editor. He teaches professional and creative writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan and can be found online at www.amorakhuey.net. His poems have appeared recently in The Southern Review, Rattle, Subtropics, Indiana Review, Contrary, PANK, and many other journals.



***


Anna Leahy

And this is your husband.

Yes, I say, this is my husband—
except that we are not married.
But the conversation always proceeds
straight down the aisle as if I had said only
yes, the knot in someone else’s
logic still tied securely, like the string
around a finger: don’t forget,
it said when you placed it there
a long time ago, before you knew me,
as your mnemonic for lasting love.


**


Middle-of-the-Night

When my lover jumps out of bed
and releases grunt verging on scream,

I recognize that sound
because my father had leg cramps in the night.

He would dart up, hop around, make his way
to the bathroom, run his calf under hot water.

My mother stayed out of his way.
Water, they say, and potassium—the lack of it.

My lover writhes and goes nowhere.
I take his hand, he resists at first,

says just leave me be,
but I am insistent, assertive, and he is weak

just now. I lead him, turn the faucet, let him
stand there twitching, stifling tears or screech,

until the water runs hot on my hand.
Put your leg under, I say.

He does not trust me.
I have something to prove.

Back in bed, he turns to me, says thank you,
kisses me hard on the lips. I close my eyes

to savor the physical gratefulness
I didn’t know I needed.


Anna Leahy's book Constituents of Matter won the Wick Poetry Prize and her poems appear in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Cream City Review, The Journal, and Zócalo Public Square. She has creative nonfiction in a recent issue of The Southern Review and forthcoming in The Pinch, and she co-writes the blog Lofty Ambitions. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs at Chapman University, where she directs Tabula Poetica, including its annual reading series.



***


Nick McRae

Gutting the Farmhouse Upon Grandfather’s Death from Alzheimer’s

            
My heart leapt when I thought
           of all I could destroy.

I tore the cherry banisters
           from the foyer’s broad staircase

and piled the splintered dowels by the door.
           Dad ripped piping from beneath the sink.

The hollow copper rasped and clanged
           as he dropped each length of pipe at his feet.

He raised an axe, cleaved
           each cabinet door from its hinges,

and hurled the ruined wood through
           the window frame he’d emptied with a sledge.

I swung my old claw hammer
           and pierced the drywall.

Jaw clenched, I hammered
           until my arms were rubber,

then followed the floor’s vibrations to the pantry
           to watch Dad hoist his sledge and laugh,

smashing the shelves to splinters,
           his eyes full of sweat and rapture.


Nick McRae is the author of Mountain Redemption, winner of the Fall 2011 Black River Chapbook Competition from Black Lawrence Press. His poems, reviews, and translations have appeared or will soon appear in Hayden's Ferry Review, Linebreak, Passages North, The Southern Review, Third Coast, and other journals. Formerly a Fulbright fellow in the Slovak Republic and a finalist for the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, he now studies poetry and teaches creative and analytical writing at The Ohio State University, where he also serves as Poetry Review Editor for The Journal. Nick was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, raised in the northwest Georgia mountains, and currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.

***


Anne-Marie Thompson

Sand Dollars

Every summer,
the island always
prickly significant
as sunburn fever-chill,
always large and far
and blustered enough
to become in the mind
of a dreaming girl
the size and shape of dream,
hovered around the seawall,
Grandmama, and me
the indefinite significant
color of a sand dollar,
color of sand.

We’d walk the glinting mile
from bay house to beach,
the mile turned mythic miles
to Houston or Kerrville
or Kingsville, mythic
palmettos bending
into myth and myth and I
would see them all, the glinting
faraway people, faraway
and familiar as a dream
I always never dreamed.  
Blustered up, displaced,
flanked by glinting palms,
the people in her dream stories
of old oil money, family money,
would prickle and bend
like palms themselves,
the dusty cowboy lovers
glinting against the ranch
or ocean or rust-red horizon,
glinting and blustering
so hard that anyone,
even an oilman’s citygirl
daughter would’ve been
blustered blind and in love.  

At the shore sand dollars,
sea urchin skins
bleached sand colored,
no colored, myth colored,
and later spread out on the sandy
bay house floor, were proof
of myth and memory
in the present tense, were proof
of dreams I always dreamed
or never dreamed, glinting
and elusive and invisible and real.

I’ve opened and opened
the glitter-glued seashell lid
in Houston and Fort Worth
and Maryland and Missouri,
have touched the coins,
the sandpapered touchable past,
the mythic turned real,
touched them most
when the Chesapeake floor
turns cold or maple leaves
first consider red or when
a lover’s calloused hand
begins to feel like sandpaper
or like grains of sand.

*

Touching the sand dollars,
touching that most distant
familiar glinting past, I call
Grandmama.  She knows,
before I know what sadness,
that, Sweetie Babe, she’s had
this kind of heartbreak, too,
that some things you just can’t
hold onto, some things
you always never hold.

My poet stories,
my seascapes and farmscapes,
my place to place
and backpacking notebooked dream,
my blustered pace and blustered
artist lovers had glinted
and blustered through the phone
into ocean and palmettos,
into something she could see,
something we two have always
never seen ourselves
and always understood,

the way the fullest realest
present glints with future
and past, as if its realness
fills it up so real
it turns to dream,
or turns us into something
indistinguishable from dream,
so that we carry with us
something to remind us,
like coins or stars or sand.


Anne-Marie Thompson's recent work appears in Birmingham Poetry Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Southwest Review, and The Southeast Review.  She lives in Jefferson City, Missouri, and teaches at Westminster College.


***


Kevin Weidner

from Jesse James

        for B & M

I am bred of thieves
which leaves my hands full
though I’ve learned to feel
I deserve nothing not an ear
from tended acres not fruit
from a wild bush and many
would wish better but I am only
a blind man in the hollow
I gamble on the weather
from the quake in my bones
and when morning breaks
a storm of meadowlarks
like a wave your approach
is a flood and of the sudden
on higher ground the buzzards
undescended the sun unset
says no not all is stolen

**

from Jesse James

I feel him not far off, dear

the light’s unsettled
like a song
            (even the moonlight is blinding)

the winds are changing
the winds pick the branches like steel strings

     there the owl
     the crescendo of hooves

I feel him not far off
like the bringer of seasons

a blade of lightning for each body in the stand

the dark rider, the light falters like late fallen snow

as much as I want to hear you
I don’t, dear

I want a messiah
with sunflower eyes
a monarch in the throat

I feel him not far off
in the dogwood blooms

     the dark center of petals
     where the shadows pupil

when I look away from the sun
everything is absent light

                     the light falters

I feel him not far off
and what can I do now

think how many he’s sent to grave
early and unexpected

he’s not far off
and when he comes as a lone figure in the dark
or a lone man in the swelter
what can I do but go
as have so many
into the sucked-in center of his barrel

the singular gravity of what’s been pulling me


Kevin Weidner hails from Missouri and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, where he is pursuing an MFA in creative writing at the University of Alabama. His work can be found in Hayden's Ferry Review, storySouth, PANK, Super Arrow, and Midwestern Gothic. He edits 751 Magazine.